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Todo el Poder de Multimedia

Instituto Technologico
San Luis Potosi, Mexico
21 October, 1995

Presentation by Tay Vaughan


The promise of exciting and compelling multimedia delivered to mass audiences suffers from two deficiencies: The first deficiency is technological -- delivering multimedia requires large pipes for the information stream and fast data processors for display, and this technology is not yet available at affordable prices. The second deficiency is creativity -- too few authors of multimedia bring fresh and new ideas to this medium, and many multimedia "titles" currently in the marketplace are disappointing junk. This paper describes both the technological and creative deficiencies, details the challenges presented by CD-ROM and on-line delivery of multimedia, and offers specific suggestions about preparing and delivering information, learning, and entertainment in the future.

Because multimedia is so complicated, we have two translators here today -- Hermann Steffen from Costa Rica and Jaime Fastag from Tijuanna.

Welcome. I would like to congratulate the Institute on its 25th anniversary and congratulate the student committee and the conference organizers for putting together an outstanding program. For me, someone who awakened one morning several years ago like the famous Kafka beetle, metamorphosed into a multimedia expert simply by being in the right place at the right time with the right skills, it is always a bit scary and an honor to rub shoulders with such excellent company as Professor Oliverio Jerez de Leon and Ingenieria Dubelza Oliva of your Institute, and Professor Padron from Monterrey, and to know that many among you know more, can do more, and are more creative than I. But I have a job to do today. That job is to ignite in you, who have come here to listen and learn about this new technology, a spark in your mind. From this spark I hope you can then build a fire that will put you, your Institute, and your country onto the world wide map of new inventions and contributors to progress. I will talk later about inventions and progress and how YOU can be on the map.

And while I am thanking people, I would also thank the publisher of my book, McGraw-Hill, for their continuing support. Senor Reyes is here today from the McGraw-Hill Division Universidades in Mexico City. My book, "Todo el Poder de Multimedia", I am surprised and happy to tell you, is now translated into many languages, including Portuguese, Korean, Chinese, and even Hebrew. When the Hebrew version of my words arrived at my home only last month from Tel Aviv, I opened the package and leafed excitedly through the pages. I looked at the strange mating dance of chicken and rooster footprints that make up this language, and suddenly I saw a digital image of my 8-year-old daughter, hanging upside down. She is normally right side up, so I knew something was wrong. Those of you who know about Hebrew and Chinese and Japanese and Korean and Arabic know that in these languages the front of a book is really the back of the book. And, in the case of the Hebrew book in my hands, I was holding it not only backwards, but upside down, too.

Multimedia is like that -- upside down and backwards -- confusing and mysterious until you understand the highly-organized dance of its basic elements... the images, sounds, text, and animations who wait for you to weave them into a tapestry of communication and purpose.

In the next minutes, I will explain what multimedia is by showing you exerpts from the interactive CD-ROM version of my book. Then I will share with you my vision of the multimedia revolution and what this revolution means to all of us here today, and what it will mean to our children and to our children's children. Then I will talk about the deficiencies of multimedia today, and how these deficiencies can be overcome. And I will, in the end, offer to you a recipe to enable you, the students and teachers and professionals in this room today, to contribute as equal partners in the worldwide multimedia revolution.

Let's begin by defining multimedia. Multimedia is any combination of text, graphic art, sound, animation, and video delivered to you by computer or other electronic means. With multimedia you can create -- crear
... you can use many verbs with multimedia!

When you weave together the sensual elements of multimedia- dazzling pictures and animation, engaging sounds, compelling video clips, and raw textual information - you can electrify the thought and action centers of people's minds. You can teach and entertain them.

When users are given navigational control to wander through the content of a project wherever they wish, multimedia becomes a very powerful personal gateway to information. This is interactive multimedia. Then, if you provide a structure of intentionally linked elements through which the user can navigate, this interactive multimedia becomes "hypermedia."

The people who weave multimedia into meaningful tapestries are "multimedia developers," and their looms and needles are "authoring tools." These software tools, the authoring tools, manage the individual multimedia elements and provide user interaction. They also offer facilities for creating and editing text and images, and they have extensions to drive videodisc players, videotape players, and other relevant hardware peripherals. The threads of these tapestries, of course, are the ideas and inventions brought to the medium by inventors and creators like you!

The hardware and software that govern the limits of what can happen in a multimedia project are the "platform" or the "environment."

My friend, Georgia McCabe, who, when she was Director of Digital Imaging at Kodak (and possibly the most senior female executive at that gigantic company) told me that "Talking about multimedia is a lot like talking about love. Everybody agrees that it's a good thing, everybody wants it, and wants to participate in it, but everybody has a different idea of what "it" really is. The multimedia industry," she said, "made her think of teenagers dabbling in something that instinctively feels right, all the while wondering how and when they will know for sure if they're really in "it", and what to do about it if they are...

Well, we are the teenagers. We know that multimedia is powerful stuff. But it is new to us, and we are experimenting and exploring.

Georgia also contributed to my CD-ROM a very personal multimedia project about her family; I will show you some of it later.

I believe that in a few years, multimedia computers will be an anachronism - all computers will readily integrate images, sounds, and motion video - and this capability will be built onto the motherboard of the computer as an essential part of what a computer is. These computers will be connected to world-wide networks with terabit-per-second transfer rates to make real-time sharing of high-quality images, sounds, and video practical. Intelligent software will make the technology of multimedia transparent at the user interface.

But even when "multimedia computers" per se disappear, and the term "multimedia" becomes old-fashioned, the fundamental concepts and techniques required to work with the basic elements of multimedia will NOT disappear.

When you decide to sing of your history to the generations to come by creating your family's own 1000-year CD-ROM, you will still work with the basic elements -- with the digital image of your first true love... with the sounds of your children at the playground or at the beach or beneath a Christmas Tree with your wife or husband... with the special video tapes made at your father's 70th birthday party. I would bet that you have those very ingredients in your hands today -- some pictures, some tapes (even Elvis Prestley will do), perhaps the text of some stories you have already written about your family... the exhibits and little things that describe who you are and where you have been. So go make some multimedia! And make it on a CD-ROM, then pass it to your children so they can add to it... Invent your life so others may discover you. The tools are available to you right here in San Luis...

I will explain to you the simple steps for making multimedia so you can do such projects! But first, let's explore the basic elements of multimedia...

Ad lib from the CD-ROM "Multimedia: Working It Out!"
Sound (Challenger)
Georgia McCabe (Overview)

---------- Part 2 --------

Now that we have explored the elements of multimedia, lets talk about the difficulties of making it and then showing it.

To make multimedia you need computer hardware that can work with graphics and sounds. Most computers sold today not only come with a CD-ROM player installed, but they typically have a sound board and decent graphics capabilities. Ah, but it costs money, you say!

Yes. Hardware costs money, and money is always a difficult consideration, no matter what country or economy you live in. I am sure you would agree, we never have enough money to do all the things we would like! If you disagree with this basic scientific law, please put your extra money in the ashtray at your table and pass it forward to the stage. We need a new server and an upgraded digital scanner at my company in Oakland, where we never have enough money for the many things we would like to do.

One way to reduce the cost of hardware is to share it. In fact, this is typically what is done at universities and schools, where students share laboratory facilities and computers and scanners and equipment. Here in the laboratories at the Institute in San Luis Potosi, there is excellent hardware and software. You have the tools to make outstanding multimedia, and the equipment should be operating 24-hours a day with students standing three-deep to get at it!

Ah, but it is not so simple, you say. You DO have all those pictures in a shoebox under your bed at home, and you have a story to tell (oh, what a story, especially about Mary and Jimmy), but you don't know the front from the back of a computer, and the instruction manual looks like the Hebrew version of my book! But don't turn away! This is just the starting part of the multimedia "learning curve," where it looks like a brick wall but crumbles quickly into a smooth series of learning experiences. At lunch yesterday, I heard about Maria Sabina from Oahaxa; here at the brick wall of the learning curve, she would probably appear and tell you that you are at exactly the right place, to step forward past the mysteries, to discover and use the tools with which you can create and invent the literature of the future. In her own words, she might say "carpe diem!"

My heart is with those of you who have the courage to step forward onto new learning curves. My heart is with all of you, because you are each already on one or even many learning curves, some steep, some gentle. But because you are here, as students, as teachers, I know you have already stepped through many brick walls.

The multimedia brick wall and its learning curve is special, I believe. The changes in the way humans access and learn information, and the swiftly-changing way that information is packaged, have kindled an electronic revolution far more complex and powerful than the liberation of the printed word that occurred 500 years ago in middle Europe.

That last revolution, led by Gutenberg, Grolier, Aldus Manutius, and others who built and used printing presses, yielded powerful and long-lasting transformations to the human condition that far exceeded the imaginations of that day.

Someone among us, perhaps you, may become multimedia's Gutenberg, a creative, intellectual, or engineering talent who will truly alter the human condition. We are at the beginnings of this revolution, where the learning curves are not complex, where individual contributions will have immense impact. In this revolution, you are allowed to think BIG!

I have brought you along a circuitous path, through a garden of ideas and new challenges. And you say, "No way, Jose! I don't even know where the computer lab is." Well, find out. Get a key. Pester your professor; show him your shoebox and pictures. Tell your father you MUST have that new computer; you don't need the red sportscar. Tell Fernando you're busy tonight, you will be at the scanner. Start learning how to make your 1000-year disc!

The multimedia garden is not full of roses. There are problems and deficiencies. And it would be unfair of me to invite you in, only to have you wither and die.

One of the deficiencies, bandwidth, will be solved with technology and money. Multimedia requires processing a great amount of data in very short amounts of time. Bandwidth describes the size of the pipe that you use to send the data through the computer

For multimedia on CD-ROMs played on PCs, there is enough technology and performance to deliver adequate multimedia. Not fancy multimedia, but adequate multimedia. But the real revolution will occur on the Internet.

Ad Lib...